It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. How to tell an employee to stop cc’ing my boss
I’m a new manager and I have an employee who consistently copies other people on emails I’ve directed specifically to her. What is confusing about this is that sometimes the emails are related to situations that may not have been well handled by her. I’m trying to be supportive and encouraging and make these things teachable moments instead of “you’re in trouble” moments, but when she then turns around and copies my boss in her response it makes me look bad for not immediately reporting the issue to him.
I don’t know how to explain this to her without making it sound like I want her to hide things from my boss. Do I just cc my boss every time I think her judgement may have been off to get ahead of the problem? That would probably get her in trouble more, which I don’t want either. I don’t have a problem with her telling my boss about an issue that has come up in her area, but when I’ve responded saying something like, “You used your best judgment in the moment; let’s figure out how to fix it together,” it’s a little jarring to then discover that she’s included my boss in her response.
The good news here is that you’re her boss so you can just direct her to stop doing this. I’d start, though, by asking what her thought process is when she does it. For example: “Jane, I’ve noticed you’ll often cc Fergus on a response to me when I’ve initially sent the email only to you. How come?” She’ll presumably respond with “I thought he should be in the loop on X” or something similar, and then you can explain why that’s not the case: “Actually, Fergus doesn’t need to be involved in that. If I decide that he does, I’ll of course loop him in, but part of my job is fielding this sort of thing so that he doesn’t need to spend time on it.” And then give the clear direction to stop: “Going forward, please leave Fergus off emails about this kind of thing. I’ll loop him in if I think he’d want to be informed or be able to give input.”
I think you’re feeling weird about saying “don’t tell Fergus things,” but that’s not the message; it’s “Fergus has other things he needs to focus on. He and I are aligned about when to bring him into the conversation, and I’ll do that when it’s needed.”
(Also, I wouldn’t assume that you’ll look bad to your own boss for not immediately reporting issues to him, unless they’re truly big enough that he’d want immediate notification. Your employees will make mistakes. You only need to loop your boss in when those mistakes are big ones that will impact things he needs to know about, or when it’s enough of a pattern that you’ve developed serious performance concerns about an employee and need your boss’s buy-in on your plan for handling it.)
2. Exclamation points in cover letters
I have a question about the use of exclamation points in cover letters. Yes or no? I wrote a very compelling cover letter and used a total of three exclamation points (all appropriately) throughout the one-page document. I shared the cover letter with a former colleague. His feedback was that my cover letter “contained WAY too many exclamation points.” What’s your take? There is very little advice on the subject.
There’s no hard and fast rule here because it really depends on the content of your letter, but in general I’d say that one or two exclamation marks are fine, but three is probably a little overboard (and I’d bet you could change one or two of them to periods without losing anything).
Also, keep in mind that you want your text, not your punctuation, to do the heavy lifting when it comes to conveying tone.
All that said, there are many enemies of exclamation points out there, some of whom believe they never belong in professional correspondence (I disagree), and if this was your colleague’s only piece of feedback on your cover letter, he may have such leanings.
3. My ex-husband with anger issues was just hired as a temp at my new job
I was laid off over a year ago. Since then, I have been on unemployment and doing temp work at a local hospital, which is a very difficult place to be hired. I have made many friends and love it there; it’s a great place to work. I also volunteer there weekly. Long story short, I was finally offered a full-time permanent job there, and I start in a week.
Yesterday, my daughter told me her father, my ex-husband, who was just fired (again) from his job due to anger issues, was hired at the hospital as a temp worker. He starts tomorrow in the same office as me!
I have been divorced for 14 years. Without going into the horrific details for the break-up, I had a restraining order for the first few years, and I have had very little contact with him since.
I do not know my new supervisor well enough to tell her how I feel about working with my ex-husband or the possible liabilities he poses to the hospital due to his behavior towards women. He acts very polite and friendly to other people. He doesn’t start to “slip up” until he feels comfortable. I really need this job and do not want to jeopardize losing it. I am nervous to be anywhere near this man and feel he purposely applied at my workplace to be near me. I was thinking about talking to my current supervisor about the situation. What would you suggest?
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your new manager, start with your current manager and ask for advice: “I just learned that my ex-husband, who I had a restraining order against for years because of abusive behavior (or fill in whatever broad description is correct here, if you’re comfortable sharing it), has been hired as a temp in the department I’m moving into. I feel really awkward raising this as a brand-new employee, but I feel unsafe and am concerned he may have applied purposely to be near me. Can you give me advice on the best way to handle this? Should I talk to (new manager)? HR?”
Alternately, just go straight to HR. They should be able to help figure out what to do about this (and since your ex is a temp, it’ll hopefully be pretty easy to handle). Do it ASAP though, like today.
4. My boss is pressuring me to consult after I leave for a new job
After a year and a half with my first post-college employer, I got a job that fits very well in line with my long-term career goals. Because of the structure of my new company, I was able to give my current employer nearly four weeks notice. I was glad to be able to do this because my department is very small and we’re all very overworked. It’s given me time to close up some projects so my boss doesn’t need to rush to replace me. However, she asked me last week if I could sign on as a consultant to work a few off hours (a couple hours on a Saturday or in the evening) in the spring for one project that she is worried can’t be done without me.
While I appreciate that she thinks so much of my work, and I’m not totally opposed to it (more money could be a great help for certain loans of educational persuasion), I’d have to get permission from my future employer and I don’t totally feel comfortable going to them and asking them to approve my working for another company when I haven’t even started with them.
This is a smaller part of my larger concern over how big of a deal my boss has made about my leaving. She’ll concede that it’s better for me in the long run, but three to five times a day since I’ve given my notice, she’ll (half-joking…but not) say, “Please change your mind” or “You’ll miss us. You won’t have fun like this at your new place.” She’s even gone so far as to quiz me about all of the benefits with my future employer and commenting that by taking this new job, I’ll have to wait to apply to graduate school for another two years (I didn’t sign a two-year contract; this is just her thinking) and I’ll be too old to be accepted anywhere good.
I’m not sure, at this point, which is more exhausting, laughing her off/defending my career decisions, or the workload I have to complete in my final week. I don’t want to leave this place on bad terms because she does like me a lot and would give me a very good reference. I’m just concerned that if I do not complete everything by the end my final week and if I do not sign on as a consultant, I’ll wind up leaving with lower marks than I otherwise would have.
Unless you strongly want to do the consulting work and aren’t just being influenced by her pressure, say no — for all the reasons here. Say this to her: “I’ve thought about your suggestion, and I think I’ll be too busy with my new job to take on other commitments.” If she keeps pushing, “I really have thought it over, and I just can’t do it. But I’ll leave things in good shape for the next person.” And then repeat as necessary.
This is a reasonable stance to take, and no reasonable manager will hold it against you, even if they’re disappointed. Same with the workload: as long as you’re putting in a good faith effort to get done what you can and — importantly — keeping her in the loop about what can and can’t complete, that’s all a reasonable manager will ask of you. And even most unreasonable ones won’t go so far as to hold it against you in a reference.
As for the constant “please change your mind” and “you’ll miss us” comments, smile and ignore. You’ll be out of there soon.
5. Am I right to be turned off by this volunteer interview experience?
I applied to work as a volunteer with a nonprofit charity. The position involved working directly with members of the community, so I did expect a fairly thorough process. I initially filled out a lengthy paper application, including reference information. I really hate inconveniencing references unnecessarily, but I assumed that they wouldn’t check them until after an initial interview. This assumption was wrong, as I found out directly from my references that they had been put through a lengthy and detailed telephone interview about me (note, at this point I have not had as much as a phone interview myself). I was a bit surprised, but moved forward with setting up an in-person interview.
Initially the interview went well. The representative told me a lot about the work the nonprofit does, and we talked about how my experience could play a part in that. About half an hour into the interview, she casually mentioned that they only train new volunteers once a year, seven months in the future, and that while I would be a good fit, she wouldn’t be surprised if I wanted something sooner! I was quite stunned that no one had mentioned in the long thread of emails to this point, or even earlier in the interview, that they weren’t looking for new people, and that they had contacted my references knowing this(!) but managed to politely finish the interview.
Several months later I was contacted asking if I wanted to enroll in their training, but I had booked an out-of-state trip that weekend (it was a major holiday weekend) so I declined. Was I right to consider their interview process to be somewhat inconsiderate and almost rude, particularly considering that I was about to commit a significant amount of volunteer time to them? It really turned me off the organization, and I hope that I am not being petty.
Good lord, no, you’re not being petty. There’s no reason for them to contact references before talking with you and confirming that they wanted to bring you on and you were still interested. And there was no reason for them not to tell you when they reached out to schedule the interview that the role wouldn’t be available for seven months, and see if you were still interested in talking now. They were thoughtless and inconsiderate of your time on multiple fronts.
If you wanted to, you could send them a polite note pointing both of these things out. It might be helpful for them to hear it from a volunteer applicant they were interested in.